The latest frontier to be explored by Google Earth Streetview is the ocean. As a part of this exciting effort, over 400,000 panoramic photos have been taken of the watery world, including coral reefs and the deep sea. Although not all panoramas are available online yet, many dazzling shots can be seen here.
The sponsor behind this project is Catlin Seaview Survey, a scientifically minded organization that hopes to record the world’s reefs in 360º to increase appreciation and thus the effort to save and conserve them. But the photos serve as more than simple aesthetic pleasures. They are also valuable data points that will provide a baseline for reef health. By comparing the panoramas that are being taken now to those that will be taken later, researchers can monitor the effects of such detriments as pollution, acidification, and severe weather.
In addition to the photos, scientists with the CSS are also collecting tissue samples for further studies and using PAM (Pulsed Amplitude Modulated) stress detection devices to detect stress in deep waters without having to send divers.
This project is so vital because over 500 million people around the world depend on coral reefs, whether it’s for food, tourism revenue, or storm buffering. It is not some esoteric study that will be buried in scientific journals. All data is publicly available on the Catlin website and will hopefully encourage action to protect these reefs.